Keep Running The Race

Keep Running The Race

I’m one of those want to be super athletic but is slightly too uncoordinated to really succeed in organized sports. I can, however, run and managed to stay in my lane for track, even succeeding in not dropping a baton in relays. When you’re exercising, playing a sport, or going for a run – you’re pushing your body further than you often think you could and you’re able to stay focused and push past any pain when you have an end goal in mind. As Hebrews 12:1-2 reminds us, “Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith.”

My track coach taught me to keep my eyes looking out about 6ft to where I was going in order to keep looking forward in good form and when I go out on runs now, I keep my eyes focused on where I’m going and mentally keep pushing because I have a set distance and goal in mind and each time another mile is marked off, I know I’m a little closer to my goal and can keep going. Paul reminds us several times (1 Corinthians 9:24, Philippians 3:13-14, 2 Timothy 4:7) to keep endurance in our faith and continue our mission work by keeping our eyes focused on Christ and remembering why were are running in the first place.

In Galatians 6:9 Paul encourages us, “So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.” Yet as I sit here, I’m tired and when I look around, I see the Church getting tired. Often times, I become convicted thinking about how we as Christians can be really good at sprinting but aren’t building up our endurance for distance running. I see this most noticeably in response to natural disaster, or a pandemic as we are in now. On one hand, I am often encouraged to watch how churches respond in times of crisis, after a natural disaster strikes – there is renewed zeal to love your neighbor, help with projects, donate money, people are praying or evangelizing and it’s a time of the Church becoming all it can be. Yet, how quickly it wears off, soon it’s harder and harder to get volunteers to do building projects, giving to response needs goes down, and that burning passion to preach salvation slowly fades. As response moves from crisis to recovery, society starts to return to normal and then we get back to our daily lives where it is much easier to focus on issues of the world than issues of God and we slowly forget out reliance on His Salvation because we don’t feel overwhelmed by crisis any longer.

How easy it if for us read in the Old Testament of how quickly and often the Israelites forgot about God, but we forget our human nature quickly does the same. There were the judgements on Egypt, miracles by God, prayers being answered, but a short time into wandering the desert and the Israelites were worshiping idols while Moses was up on the mountain speaking with God (Exodus 32).

In our human nature, we want quick results and we tire of doing good. We tend to treat life and our faith like a sprint with recovery times between, but we should instead by treating our faith and life as a marathon. Slow and steady is what wins the race, be a turtle not a hare! Running long distance is hard though because quite frankly, it gets boring and you’re not always sure why you’re dealing with the exhaustion. Have you ever run 8 laps on a track? The scenery isn’t really changing there and you’re literally not going anywhere. Ministry literally feels like you’re just running laps and going circles, you’re not seeing any results, and everything just gets a bit boring and you just step off for a break because it feels useless. That’s why with crisis and natural disasters we all of a sudden jolt of energy because we get woken out of the complacency. Unfortunately we tend to use that jolt like it’s the end of the race and we’re sprinting to the finish line, when realistically crisis is the starting line and we’re sprinting to gain our position as we settle into a multi mile race.

Even if we embrace this idea that we are running a marathon and we truly don’t want to flame out going after life as a sprint, it’s pretty hard to do. No one means to lose their zeal for evangelism or caring for their neighbor, it happens over time as we lose focus on living towards Christ and instead live towards the worries and tasks of our world. To build the endurance to keep going in a race, you must train. Training for endurance in the faith can look like this:

  1. Study and read Scripture daily. Reading God’s word is how we train our brain to think differently, to draw on truth when we are being tempted, and how we draw close to God.
  2. Prayer, to keep in a relationship you need to communicate! Prayer is where we bring out troubles of the world to God, where we ask Him to show up, and remind us that we do have a Sovereign God.
  3. Surround yourself by a cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) when we surround ourselves with Christian community, we gain built in accountability and encouragement to keep running the race. My favorite part of the track was running by the stands, we need the cheering and clapping to keep us going another lap.

Keep running the race, keep persevering, we are running towards Christ at the finish line and He will fill us with His strength and spirit to keep going. Even now we’re all feeling exhausted by the burden of Coronavirus and the Church is longing to go back to normal, but don’t let our desire for things to be easier again make us forget our daily reliance on God, our mission to serve others, and our mission to preach to the nations. What good is it for the Church to return to normal if along the way we aren’t persevering in the Great Commandment and bringing more people to Christ so that they can also share in our inheritance? One thing God didn’t promise us was an easy life with no suffering, “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). Therefore, we need to train every day in order to endure through suffering and keep persevering in our faith, in order to build up the Church of Christ and help as many people know Christ as we can before we join with Him in our eternal home.  

Colossians 1:27-29:  27 God wanted to make known among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me.

Colossians 1:9-14  9 For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, 10 so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves. 14 We have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, in Him.

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